PALMETTO -- Before a standing room crowd in Palmetto City Commission chambers, Charles B. Smith was appointed to fill the vacancy on the Commission left by the recent resignation of Mary Lancaster.
Carolyn Higdon, 62, had also applied to fill the vacancy in Ward 1.
After listening to about a dozen people speak, Commissioners Brian Williams, Tamara Cornwell and Tambra Varnadore cast their votes for Smith. Commissioner Alan Zirkelbach cast his vote for Higdon.
“It’s an awesome feeling and I thank the commission,” Smith said after the vote.
By earning the appointment, Smith will serve until November, 2012 and then the Ward 1 seat will be up for election. Whoever wins then will have to run again in 2014.
More than a dozen people spoke on behalf of the candidates before the commissioners’ 3-1 vote.
“Charles is very active in the community and has a high level of integrity,” Smith supporter Ruby Bird said. “He is teachable. He is a great asset.”
Greg Reeves was equally as passionate for Higdon.
“I think Carolyn brings a lot to the table,” Reeves said. “She’s a bulldog. She won’t back down. We don’t need hidden agendas in Ward 1.”
Smith, 48, had support from his uncle, former Oakland Raider lineman Henry Lawrence.
“Charles is diligent and a critical thinker,” Lawrence said. “I think he will be an awesome addition.”
Lancaster, who supported Higdon at the meeting, appeared distraught after the vote.
“I am very concerned about Palmetto,” Lancaster said. “I am very disappointed that the city commissioners did not think Ward 1 deserved better.”
The commissioners did not discuss the candidates before or after voting.
Smith, a marketing consultant, has lived in the area more than 35 years.
He serves as chair of the board of directors for the Manatee/Sarasota Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is a state SCLC board member and was elected to the organization’s national board of directors.
Smith also served three previous terms as a Palmetto city commissioner, and was a vice mayor as well. Lancaster defeated Smith by 16 votes in 2010 for the Ward 1 seat.
In other news:
n Commissioners tabled a decision on whether to allow Charles and Pamela Roy to subdivide their roughly eight acres on 21st Street West so that family members could one day live there.
Among those who asked commissioners to deny the proposed project on grounds that the neighborhood is already historically comprised of homes with large lots were Ken Burton Jr. and Peter Harllee Jr., both of whom live near the Roys.
Commissioner Alan Zirkelbach lives across the street from the Roys and city attorneys now must check with state officials to see if he can vote on the proposal.
n Tim Foote, 17, a Palmetto High School junior, was honored by the commission for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, the first one ever in Troop 72, according to his father, Mike Foote.
“I never made it past Brownies,” said Foote’s mother, Stacy.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.